We asked about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on your businesses. You responded.
Nationwide, companies are being forced to adjust to unexpected consequences of the coronavirus. Some companies are seeing some surprising benefits, while others are operating cautiously as they fear the worst is yet to come.
Here's some of what you've told us so far:
president & founder
East Falmouth, Massachusetts
Rapoza Landscape is busy.
President and Founder Paul Rapoza said that due to the coronavirus threat, his clients are flocking to their vacation homes earlier than ever before.
“We’re a second home market, so vacation homes,” he said. “We’ve never seen this many of our clients at their Cape homes this time of year. People are trying to get away from it in the cities, so they’re coming to their vacation homes and hunkering down.”
Rapoza said the company has had very few cancellations.
“We’ve experienced people pushing jobs back or putting them on hold, but we’ve also experienced people calling in and we’re still doing estimates,” he said. "We’ve had just as many people sign up for new work.”
Because crews are still 100% operational, Rapoza said the team is being very vigilant about social distancing.
“We implemented all the CDC guidelines for social distancing,” he said. "We’re keeping guys out in the yard. We’re not allowing anybody in our office. We’re not having meetings. We usually have a kickoff meeting in the spring, but we totally scrapped it and said we’ll do it later when everything calms down.”
Rapoza said that while necessary, social distancing measures have been hard on the sales team when they go to give estimates.
“We’re still sending the sales team out,” he said. “We talk to the clients and get as much information as we can over the phone. Then, we tell them we’ll do the estimate at a distance. It’s definitely strange. Sales is all about building rapport with people and it’s awkward to not shake someone’s hand and to stay away from them.”
All of these measures will hopefully keep his crews safe, but Rapoza said having someone contract COVID-19 and spread it is his biggest fear at this time.
“One of the things we worry about is if someone from our team gets it,” he said. “Then they inadvertently expose other team members to it. We’ve always had small teams, but now we’re sending one person in a company vehicle and asking the other person to use their personal vehicle. We’re trying to keep as much distance as possible between team members.”
Rapoza isn’t too worried about any financial strain just yet and says he doesn’t feel it will be worse than the impact of the 2009 recession.
“2009 was tough for us, we were down like 23%,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near that.”
landscape & snow manager
Constantine Property Management,
Loudonville, New York
Panarese said that while his crews are performing maintenance, he’s hoping to get clarification from state officials in order to hopefully offer the rest of their services.
“We are operational,” he said. “We’re pretty much all commercial maintenance. The state has deemed our services as essential, with some limits. It’s strictly maintenance and weed control here in New York. They’ve pretty much said nothing cosmetic and that’s about as broad as you can be. We’re kind of scratching our heads as to if annual mulching is considered cosmetic or not. We’re still trying to get clarification.”
So far, he hasn’t had any customers cancel jobs.
“All of my customers can still work from home,” he said. “I’ve been fairly proactive with all of our customers and letting them know what’s going on.”
Employees at Constantine Property Management are social distancing, but Panarese said he’s having trouble finding enough sanitation supplies for them.
“All of our trucks have disinfectants in them, and we are wiping all the touch points down twice a day” he said. “I’m still trying to get my hands on hand sanitizer and masks. The guys need them. I told them if they see it, grab it and we’ll reimburse you. Basically, help us help you.”
Panarese said the company has implemented a one person per truck rule, and once jobs get closer to their main office, everyone will direct report.
In addition to finding supplies, Panarese said he’s limiting overtime for now, but expects that will all change once the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
“We’re trying to keep the hours and overtime at bay, but things will hit a bottleneck once things go back to normal,” he said. “As soon as someone says ‘go,’ our clients will ask ‘why aren’t you here yet?’ People will want to be mulched by Memorial Day and definitely by the Fourth of July.”
Before the coronavirus hit, Panarese said crews were already out doing cleanups.
“This was actually the earliest we were ever out in the field,” he said. “We were out in mid-March and were starting to do some light cleanups… and then, we got a late March storm, and we got six inches of snow. Then the virus came into play.”
Until things change, Panarese said everyone will stay cautious and crews will do what they can.
GrassRoots Tree & Turf Care,
On one hand, Josh Wise has watched five customers call and cancel their service specifically because of COVID-19.
On the other, he’s also seen his sales at GrassRoots Tree & Turf Care in Acworth, Georgia, actually grow this year as opposed to last. He said he had a higher cancel rate last season, and in that same time, he had just under 550 new accounts for the first few months of the year. Right now, he’s looking at 900, and he’s nearly got 200 new clients this week alone.
“A lot of people had trip plans, but now they can’t go anywhere and do anything and they’re getting all these refunds, they’re saying, ‘honey, let’s do something with our lawn and landscape,’” Wise said.
He said he acknowledges the severity of the situation: His crews are practicing social distancing, and they’ve changed the way they do group meetings to a larger circle outside rather than sitting around an office. Any shipments to the office are being instantly sprayed with Lysol and equipment is being wiped down more than usual.
“You constantly hear the sink turning on and hands being washed,” he said. “Everybody’s being cautious. Employees are just going from home to work, and from work to home.”
But he’s also remaining upbeat. Among his 28 employees, Wise said he’s told them he’ll be flexible, as one employee who has a weaker immune system is already staying home for the next few weeks. Business-wise, things seem to be humming along. Wise has increased his advertising, too, so more people are seeing his company’s name.
“All in all, things are going really well here,” he said.
San Diego, California
John Mueller knows it’s a scary situation, and in California, where the state issued mandated shutdowns earlier than most others, coronavirus has been a hot topic for weeks.
Yet after some of the initial concerns over whether his company had enough saved up to survive a long-term shutdown – California considers landscaping an “essential business” because of its safety and sanitary benefits – Mueller said tensions have cooled at his company.
In fact, he’s seen an uptick in sales and job applications.
Usually, the industry-wise labor shortage is so severe that one advertisement might draw a single interested applicant, Mueller said.
But now, with other businesses laying off employees – some temporarily, some permanently – things are going quite differently. He can even afford to be picky with who he selects to join the crews.
“It was extremely hard to find quality help,” Mueller said. “Now, I run an ad, I’m getting more than a dozen a day. ”
His company is a smaller company with two-man crews who practice social distancing as much as they can, and Mueller has stressed to his employees that they not come in if they feel sick at all.
“When the crews get back at the end of the day, we use Lysol and spray down everything in the truck, we do an extra cleaning that wouldn’t normally get done,” he said.
Mueller is certainly seeing some positives from the COVID-19 concerns, but he acknowledges they could be temporary.
“It’s day by day,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s hour by hour. People are being laid off right now by the millions all over the country. We just don’t know what happens next.”
National Hispanic Landscape Alliance set to join NALP
After nine years as NHLA, the move became official in April.
FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Hispanic Landscape Alliance (NHLA) will join the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).
Since 2011, the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance has empowered more than 500,000 Hispanic-Americans employed in the landscape industry in the United States. The Board of Directors of NHLA decided that joining forces with NALP was the best way to advance the mission of NHLA.
“Supporting Hispanic-Americans professionals is critical to the continued growth of the landscape industry,” said NALP CEO Britt Wood. “We need to bring all the nation’s landscape professionals together to ensure that we are working together to shape the direction of the industry.”
NALP will provide NHLA with opportunities for collaboration in policymaking as well as professional and leadership development opportunities.
“We were delighted that the leadership at NALP embraced our suggestion to join forces so enthusiastically,” said NHLA president Mari Medrano. “We look forward, as we become part of NALP, to expanding our reach, doing more to empower the Hispanic American landscape community, and uniting the entire industry.”
FINN products used to help fight coronavirus
The products are being used to disinfect public places like parks, playgrounds, playground equipment and more.
FAIRFIELD, Ohio – FINN’s HydroSeeder products, typically used to disperse seed and fertilizer, are being leveraged to assist in disinfecting public spaces, including playground equipment, parks, benches and more.
“Finn HydroSeeders are being used in communities around the world to help disinfect public spaces. Because they can significantly accelerate the time it takes to sanitize larger areas, these products are serving a particularly important role during this crisis. We wanted to share this potential alternate use of our equipment for public good,” said Matt Hoffman, the vice president of sales and marketing of FINN Corp.
According to FINN, a few ways a hydroseeder may be considered an effective tool for spraying include the following:
The HydroSeeder is designed to spray virtually any liquid. HydroSeeders have been used as an alternative to watering trucks.
The paddle system can agitate or “mix” a combination of liquids and materials with different viscosities. This agitation can uniformly dilute additives in water.
A tower can assist in operating the system from a distance (or a hose for close distances).
The pumping system is effective for spraying liquids long distances.
With a variety of tank capacities from 300-4,000 gallons, Finn equipment can be mounted to a chassis or towed for maneuverability through streets.
Davey Tree acquires assets from Wickes/arborists in New York
For 90 years, Wickes has provided residential and commercial tree services, plant heath care and lawn care.
KENT, Ohio – The Davey Tree Expert Co. has acquired certain assets of Wickes/arborists in Spring Valley, New York.
For 90 years, Wickes has provided residential and commercial tree services, plant heath care and lawn care in Rockland County, New York.
Jim Houston, vice president and general manager, Eastern U.S. Residential/Commercial (R/C) services, said the Wickes office will join Davey’s Northeast R/C operating group. The office will conduct business as Wickes/arborists, a Davey company.
“Clients of Wickes have come to expect experienced, high-quality tree care, and they will continue to see that same level of service as well as benefit from Davey’s broad research and technical capabilities,” Houston said. “Like Davey, Wickes focuses on safety and excellent client experience to achieve success. We are excited for the employees of the Wickes Team as we welcome them into the Davey family and deepen their career opportunities within our organization.”
The new Davey office will be led by former owners James Wickes, who will serve as district manager, and John Wickes, who will serve as assistant district manager. James and John are the grandsons of company founder Ira Wickes, who established the firm in 1929.
Wickes has 22 employees, all of whom will continue employment with Davey.
“Since my grandfather started this company, Wickes has employed safety focused and industry certified arborists, plant healthcare technicians, and lawn health care operators,” James Wickes said. “I am excited to join forces with Davey Tree. We are thankful that we can continue to be passionate about tree care in our region as we grow with Davey.”
Aero Operating rebrands after series of acquisitions
The company is now Outworx Group, which represents the company’s focus on the exterior facilities maintenance market.
WESTBURY, N.Y. – Aero Operating, a portfolio company of Mill Point Capital, announced its acquisitions of Lawn Butler, a Centerville, Utah based landscaping and snow removal company; Groundtek of Central Florida, an Ocoee, Florida based landscaping company; and The Shepherd’s Landscaping, a Belleview, Florida based landscaping company.
Concurrently, Aero Operating announced that it has re-branded as Outworx Group, representing the company’s full-service offerings focused on the exterior facilities maintenance market.
“The completion of these three acquisitions marks a significant milestone in our company’s history and will allow us to offer a more complete set of services to our valued clients," said Daryl Hendricks, CEO of Outworx Group. "We are grateful to the Bori, Larsen and Squire families for their trust in us, and we look forward to building upon the legacies that they have created.”
Outworx Group offers services spanning snow melting and removal, landscaping, industrial sweeping, paving, solid waste and catch basin cleaning.
John Deere produces face shields for health care workers
Production on the protective equipment began April 8.
John Deere has joined a number of organizations and companies across the country in producing protective face shields for health care workers in response to the COVID-19 health crisis.
Employees started production on April 8 at the John Deere Seeding Group in Moline, Illinois. The factory manufactures planting equipment and precision ag solutions for a global customer base.
The company expected to produce 25,000 face shields in the initial stages of production and has ordered materials and supplies to produce an additional 200,000 face shields.
The first 25,000 protective face shields were delivered to 16 U.S. Deere factories in eight states as well as the company’s U.S. Deere-Hitachi factory for local distribution.
The company is using an open-source design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the project and leveraging expertise, skills and innovation of its employee base.
“Our manufacturing and supply management teams, along with our production and maintenance employees, the UAW, and our partners have worked tirelessly to ensure we could lend our support and protect our health care workers during this crisis,” said John May, chief executive officer, Deere & Company. “By working closely with the communities where our employees live and work, we can help support the needs we’ve identified close to home and, as the project expands, address additional, urgent needs across the country.”
The production of protective face shields is one of many initiatives the company and its employees have executed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Efforts in the U.S. have included the following:
- PPE donations to health care facilities
- 2:1 employee match program encouraging donations to local food banks and the American Red Cross
- Production of approximately 18,000 protective face shields for use by factory employees
- Employee volunteerism efforts to sew cloth masks for community members along with a match from the John Deere Foundation for the time invested in this volunteer activity
- Launch of a COVID-19 innovations site to share open-source specifications for related projects, including 3D-printed clips to affix face shields to protective bump caps
Ruppert Landscape acquires Scott & Sons
Founded in 1997 by Scott Shubert, Scott & Sons offers services on the Delmarva Peninsula.
LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape has acquired Scott & Sons Landscaping located in Dagsboro, Delaware.
Founded in 1997 by Scott Shubert, Scott & Sons offered residential and commercial landscape maintenance, design, irrigation, pest and nutrient management, and hardscape installation on the Delmarva Peninsula.
“Similar to Ruppert, Scott & Sons invested in owning and maintaining a first-class operating facility and employed a strong team, dedicated to great customer service,” said Tom Barry, president of Ruppert’s landscape management division. “We felt that this would help give us a great base of operations in Delmarva and market-specific knowledge from which to build in the years ahead.”
The transaction includes the purchase of one facility, all commercial landscape management contracts, vehicles and equipment, and the onboarding of all employees. Ruppert will relocate their newly opened Delmarva branch from its temporary facility to join the Scott & Sons team in their facility.
“Ruppert is committed to retaining the Scott & Sons team and all of their commercial landscape maintenance contracts,” said Garth Jorgensen, Ruppert's Delmarva branch manager. “This acquisition allows us to strengthen our newly formed team to better serve our customers and expand our service coverage in this new market.”
Smart Rain makes acquisition
The water management company acquired the Weather Reach and Irrisoft brands from Campbell Scientific.
SALT LAKE CITY – Smart Rain acquired the Irrisoft and Weather Reach brands from Campbell Scientific. Smart Rain has purchased all assets as well as assuming all customer support and services.
Irrisoft is a smart landscape irrigation control business that started in 2001.
The company made the Rain Bird ET Manager, which was private labeled for Rain Bird and sold by Rain Bird for almost a decade. Irrisoft took what they learned and further advanced their product with the Weather Reach Controller Link.
“I am impressed with the simplicity and reliability of the Smart Rain system and look forward to the integration of Weather Reach technology to further improve efficient water use and sustain beautiful landscapes,” said Steven Moore, president and founder of Irrisoft. Dan Hymas, president of Smart Rain said, “We have watched and loved what Irrisoft has done over the years. It was naturally a perfect fit to take all they have built and integrate into our software and smart watering system. We believe both Irrisoft and Smart Rain customers will love even more what is yet to come from Smart Rain.”
Larry Shirk, vice president of Campbell Scientific said, “This is naturally a great fit for Campbell Scientific as well. “We have enjoyed working with Smart Rain and look forward to a long-standing relationship for years to come.”